Poems, Prayers, and Promises

Words and rhythm that remain in our hearts and minds long after most prose we’ve read has been forgotten. Poems indicate more than they explain.

Words we send to God, sometimes with rhythm, sometimes without. They embed themselves in our souls and connect us with the one who breathes life into us.

Words spoken today that anchor us to one another into a future we cannot even imagine. Kept or broken, they are the ground we walk on.

Come. Explore the three P’s. And, if you are feeling particularly brave, add your own…

Incomprehensible Love

St. Olaf Choir

Lord, I’ll never understand why, but I am grateful. I’ll sing on. Amen.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul
What wondrous love is this, O my soul
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing
To God and to the Lamb, who is the great I Am
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing
While millions join the theme, I will sing

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on
And through eternity, I’ll sing on

Holy, Holy, and Holy

We bless you, O God, most high and Lord of mercy. You are always doing great and inscrutable things with us, glorious and wonderful, and without number. You grant us sleep for rest from our infirmities, and repose from the burdens of our much toiling flesh. We thank you, for you have not destroyed us with our sins, but have continued to love us; and though we were sunk in despair, you have raised us up to glorify your power. Therefore, we implore you incomparable goodness. Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with your only begotten Son, and your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. Prayer of Saint Basil

The words change, but the general gist doesn’t: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Mother, Son, and Life-giving Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Triune. Trinity. God as community and communion, always one and always internally relational among three Persons. Who God is can’t be reduced to an abstract concept or a list of attributes: God is fluid, dancing rather than cast in stone or gold. Anyone who claims to understand the nature of God fully, even after encountering God on a Damascus road or in a dream, is practicing a particular kind of religious self-deception. God cannot be reduced to any one person’s understanding – or any one faith tradition’s creed.

My best attempt to catch a glimpse of the Mystery is an analogy. Having two sons has shaped the person I have grown into. I’m not defined by my role as mother, but I have been changed by it in ways I cannot articulate. They are both separate individuals, unique and not defined by their being sons. But there is delight in our connection, and life is richer for it.

If that is true of me, it’s true of so many others. If it’s true of so many of us, how much truer it must be of God.

Perhaps I’m better off to open myself up to the mystery rather than try to explain it…

In All and By All

Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father…Prayer of St. Basil

[For full prayer, click St. Basil’s Prayer: Lent 2024 above.]

How different a world this would be if we could honestly sing and confess that God is; if God were truly glorified in all and by all, would we ever raise a hand against another – much less an army?

And yet. Isn’t the presence of God in every life form, in every breath that gives life and movement? Does the sad truth that I cannot see it and celebrate it with any constancy change the sanctity of all that is, or the holiness of the creator of all things?

Distracted

Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God.. St. Basil’s Prayer

I’ve never been one for keeping a frantic life pace or a packed calendar. I value the spaces in between work hours, life work, social events and community engagements. I don’t want to live a life of repeatedly catching up and inevitably crashing in an exhausted heap. I don’t want my epitaph to be she checked off all the items on her to-do list.

Unclaimed and unstructured space is necessary to restore body, mind, spirit, and heart; it widens my perspective, helping me see myself and my neighbors. It clears away the distractions of my activities and commitments, and opens the door to the place I meet God.

I don’t want to miss out on the singing and confessing because I’m too distracted by worldly cares and commitments. I don’t want to live that life.

Does anyone?

Not Interested

Indolence: the state of showing no real interest or effort. (Cambridge English Dictionary)

It’s more than mere laziness, it’s inattention and inaction due to lack of interest. It’s having zero motivation to do anything new because nothing seems worth the effort. Why expend any energy if I don’t give a damn about what I see around me?

How can anyone get to the point where nothing is worth the effort, when nothing sparks even the tiniest bit of interest? Once at that point, how can anyone find a way out of such a dreary, soul deadening place?

I see one way out every Tuesday morning: Story Time. Babies, toddlers, and their adults gather to sing a few songs and enjoy a couple of short stories. Simple words, simple tunes, and a place to enjoy them. Eyes light up, smiles and laughter dance among the gathered; the tots play and explore, but it’s their adults whose spirits are renewed.

Make no mistake: indolence crushes the soul. It’s a disease of the spirit that sucks the joy out of life and turns the world gray. Fortunately, all it takes is the eyes of a child to cure it.

…and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6b)

Enlighten the eyes of our understanding, and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. St. Basil’s Prayer [click St. Basil’s Prayer: Lent 2024 for full prayer]

Light To See By

Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. 

Barnumville Road at twilight

Walking home at twilight, I could see someone in the distance. She or he wore a dark colored winter jacket with the hood pulled up, hands in mittens. In the failing light, I couldn’t tell whether the person was a man or woman, or whether s/he was coming toward me or walking away. I could see just enough to make out the moving figure, but my eyes couldn’t discern much beyond that. 

I’m convinced that how I see this creation and all the life it holds is often much like how I see a distant figure at twilight: good enough to make out a figure, but not good enough to know much beyond that for sure. The eyes of my understanding see what is before me imperfectly. I cannot see people for the delightful children of God that they are without a longer look and a loving heart. I do not recognize or understand the preciousness and holiness of all that surrounds me. 

I need more light, enlightenment. 

Lord, enlighten my eyes that I may understand and love what is before me and around me – the life you created.

Twilight on the road

Incomparable Goodness

The Prayer of Saint Basil

We bless you, O God, most high and Lord of mercy. You are always doing great and inscrutable things with us, glorious and wonderful, and without number. You grant us sleep for rest from our infirmities, and repose from the burdens of our much toiling flesh. We thank you, for you have not destroyed us with our sins, but have continued to love us; and though we were sunk in despair, you have raised us up to glorify your power. Therefore, we implore your incomparable goodness. Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with your only begotten Son, and your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

[Found in Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians(the Synekdemos); Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2010 reprint, pp.9-10.]

Goodness and Greatness are not the same things. God’s incomparable greatness isn’t usually questioned, but I’m not sure the same can be said of God’s goodness.

The older I get, the more I believe they should not be separated. The incomparable greatness of God without goodness would be terrifying, leaving me to cower in the deadly deep shadow of fear. I implore the incomparable goodness of God because it seems almost too good to be true. Almost.

Why is such a life-giving truth so hard to accept?